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What Changes to Canada’s ‘Express Entry’ System Mean for You

Tuesday | November 22, 2016 | by David Cohen

An express entry immigrant in Canada

On November 19, 2016, the government of Canada implemented a range of improvements to the Express Entry immigration selection system. Each candidate in the pool, as well as those thinking of creating an Express Entry profile in the near future, should be aware of how these changes to the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) may affect their Canadian immigration goals.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • For the first time ever, Express Entry candidates who studied in Canada will be rewarded additional points.
  • Candidates with a job offer are no longer required to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a document that proves no Canadian citizen or permanent resident is available for the position) in order to receive points for their job offer.
  • Candidates who receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence will now have 90 days to submit a complete application (including supporting documents) as opposed to the original 60 days.

Study, Graduate, Then Immigrate

Every year, more and more of the world’s brightest minds are choosing to study in Canada. These international students and graduates are provided with increased opportunities to transition to permanent residence, and the latest improvements to the CRS reflect this. Canada’s Immigration Minister, John McCallum, recently said that international students are ‘the cream of the crop, in terms of future Canadians,’ and added that these candidates had until now been ‘shortchanged’ by the Express Entry system, which was first introduced by the previous government in January 2015.

More so than ever before, education is a pathway to permanent residency.

As of November 19, candidates who have completed a post-secondary program of three years or more in Canada, such as a bachelor’s degree, will get a 30-point bonus, as well as candidates who have completed a master’s degree, a doctorate, or a study program at the entry-to-practice professional degree level in Canada.

Candidates who have completed a one-year or two-year post-secondary program in Canada are also eligible for 15 additional CRS points.

It should be noted that these new additional points for international graduates are in addition to, not instead of, the points awarded for the general level of education. For example, in the past, a candidate who completed a bachelor’s degree at a Canadian university or college would receive 120 points for this factor alone (excluding points for combination factors). With the new changes, that same candidate will now get 150 points (120 points for the degree, plus an additional 30 points for the fact that it was obtained in Canada).

Which Credential to Assess

The government revealed in its year-end report on Express Entry that the median score for candidates in the pool who had studied in Canada was significantly higher compared to candidates who had not studied in Canada. The latest changes will benefit more graduates by providing the opportunity to apply for permanent residence through a federal economic immigration program.

For candidates who did not obtain their highest level of education in Canada, it should be noted that only the highest level of education needs to be assessed. For example, a candidate with a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree that were obtained outside of Canada will only need to have the highest credential (in this case, the master’s degree) assessed by an accredited body such as World Education Services (WES).

Job Offers

Previously, a candidate would need to have a permanent job offer in a skilled position supported by the LMIA in order to be awarded points for a job offer under the CRS.

Although job offers still need to be in a skilled position in order for candidates to be awarded points, there are a number of important changes relating to arranged employment.

Candidates with a qualifying job offer will no longer be awarded 600 points. Instead, they may be awarded either 200 or 50 points.

  • A qualifying job offer is now worth 200 points if the offer is in an occupation contained in Major Group 00 of the National Occupational Classification (senior managerial level position). These occupations are:
    • Legislators
    • Senior government managers and officials
    • Senior managers – financial, communications, and other business services
    • Senior managers – health, education, social, and community services and membership organizations
    • Senior managers – trade, broadcasting, and other services not elsewhere classified
    • Senior managers – construction, transportation, production and utilities
  • A qualifying job offer in any other skilled occupation is now worth 50 points.

In addition, some candidates will not need to obtain a LMIA in order to be awarded points for a job offer under the CRS. In short, certain workers in Canada on employer-specific (‘closed’) work permits, such as a NAFTA work permit or an Intra-Company Transfer work permit, may claim CRS points without a LMIA. In these cases, the worker must have been working in Canada for at least one year and the job offer must be made by the same employer named on the work permit.

However, not all workers in Canada may claim points for a job offer without first getting a LMIA. This list includes individuals on an open work permit, such as a Post-Graduation Work Permit, an International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit, or a Spousal/Common-Law Partner work permit.

Finally, the job offer duration requirement has also changed from ‘indeterminate’ to at least one year in duration.

Invitation to Apply (ITA)

The improvements to Express Entry are not just related to the ranking system itself. From now on, candidates who receive an ITA will have additional time to submit a complete application for permanent residence. Whereas previously an ITA was valid for 60 days, candidates will now have 90 days to submit an application after they receive an ITA.

New Points System

Since November 19, many candidates in the Express Entry pool may have noticed that the number of CRS points awarded to them has not gone up. However, candidates without a job offer in particular should note that their profile — even though it may have the same number of points as before — may become more competitive, particularly next to candidates with LMIA-based job offers who see their scores dropping by up to 550 points.

The Express Entry pool is a competitive environment, where candidates’ profiles are ranked against each other and the highest-ranked candidates are in a stronger position to receive an ITA when a draw is made. As of November 19, the value of a job offer decreased from 600 points to either 200 or 50 points (depending on the position offered). Last year, nearly half (46.6%) of all ITAs were issued to candidates with a job offer.

The changes leave the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) as the single most valuable factor under the CRS. A provincial nomination certificate obtained through a PNP category aligned with the Express Entry system is still worth 600 points. With more immigrants set to come to Canada through a PNP in 2017, it’s arguably more important than ever for candidates to stay up to date on these programs.

Candidates in the Express Entry pool, as well as individuals thinking of creating an Express Entry profile, can use the new and improved CRS Calculator to find out what their score would be under the new points system.

Exciting Time for Changes

Over the past couple of months, the number of ITAs issued in Express Entry draws has increased considerably. As recently as August 24, 2016, only 750 candidates were issued an ITA and the CRS cut-off point was 538. Since then, however, the number of ITAs issued has gone up six times in a row, and the CRS cut-off point has dropped to its most recent level of 470. The most recent Express Entry draw issued an ITA to 2,427 candidates.

This is all part of the government’s stated plan to make Express Entry the main focus of economic immigration to Canada. Next year, the number of newcomers arriving in Canada through one of the federal economic immigration programs will increase by 23 percent. To learn more about Canada’s Immigration Plan for 2017, including why and how Canada will welcome more candidates through Express Entry next year, see this other article I wrote for WES Advisor. 

Join Our Exclusive Webinar

If you want to learn more about the recent changes to the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System, or if you are thinking of studying or working in Canada as a pathway to permanent immigration, I encourage you to join our webinar, the first of which will take place on Tuesday, November 29. We will have two webinars that day, followed by two more webinar sessions the following day, Wednesday, November 30.

In this webinar, I will discuss in detail the full consequences of these changes. In addition, I will personally answer any of your questions on Express Entry and immigration to Canada.

I look forward to discussing these topics more during the webinar sessions!

To register for free and to learn more, please visit the Canadavisa website.

David Cohen

Attorney David Cohen is Senior Partner at the Campbell Cohen Canadian Immigration Law Firm.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).